Category Archives: Unfair To Parents

CCSS Are Unfair to Parents

Jeremy Thiesfeldt’s Bill to Silence School Boards, Principals, and Administrators

jeremy-thiesfeldt

If man is going to rescue himself from a future intolerable existence, he must first see where his unmindful escalation is leading him.” - Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Principle (1969)

Rising to the Level of His Incompetence

It pains me deeply to say this, but Jeremy Thiesfeldt, since his appointment as chairman of the Assembly Committee on Education, has become one of the Wisconsin State Legislature’s clearest illustrations of the Peter Principle, often summed up as “rising to the level of one’s incompetence.” Having jettisoned any shred of backbone that he had previously demonstrated, Thiesfeldt has now become little more than a shill, doing the bidding of education deformers in state government and their federal and corporate buddies.

The first major sign that Thiesfeldt had ejected his own backbone was his “authorship” and advancement of a deeply flawed accountability bill early this year. His defense of the bill before his own newly minted committee was nothing short of embarrassing. It was clear to everyone watching that he had little understanding of what was in his own bill, much less the mechanics or validity of what it proposed. He demonstrated even less comprehension of the bill’s detrimental implications.

His most recent actions, however, should cause more than alarm in parents, school board members, and others. To be frank, they should spark outright revolt.

AB 239, a bill Thiesfeldt introduced last spring–and which passed in the Assembly on October 27th in a troublingly amended form also submitted by Thiesfeldt–contains language that directly prohibits school board members, principals, administrators, and others from advising parents to opt their children out of standardized assessments.

Here’s the language. See for yourself…

Section 4. 118.30 (2) (b) 8. of the statutes is created to read: 118.30 (2) (b) 8. No school board, school district administrator, principal of a public school, operator of a charter school…or governing body of a private school participating in the [voucher] program may encourage or counsel a parent or guardian to make a request…to excuse a pupil from taking an examination.

“Helping Parents” by Gagging Their Local Representation

AB 239 (and its identical companion, SB 193, helpfully introduced by Senator Duey Stroebel) ostensibly began as a means of protecting parental rights. It was drafted last spring, after a Fond du Lac mother was told that she would not be permitted to opt her child out of Common Core-aligned assessments. Based on outdated and poorly worded language in state statutes, school officials insisted that only parents of children in certain grade levels had the right to say no to the assessments.

Thiesfeldt leapt to the rescue, drafting legislation that expanded the number of grades covered in statute. Yet, despite abundant evidence that children are being assessed at younger and younger ages, the proposed language failed to protect K-2 students and their parents.

While I would not call Thiesfeldt’s solution exactly damaging, neither was it particularly strong or valuable. In fact, it left room for precisely the same difficulties that had prompted Thiesfeldt to act in the first place. Moreover, it continued to frame opting out as a privilege granted by the state. Quite simply, opting out is a parental right. Thus, a far better approach would have been for Thiesfeldt to propose striking the problematic language altogether, replacing it with, if anything, a passage affirming the right of parents to opt their child out of any assessment at any grade level–at any time and for any reason.

In June, after Thiesfeldt’s bill had already been introduced and widely touted as a protection of parental rights (which, as I’ve already explained, it really wasn’t), Thiesfeldt quietly offered a substitute amendment. For those not familiar with that terminology, substitute amendments are significantly re-drafted bill language. They replace in full a bill’s original language.

The language cited above magically appeared in Thiesfeldt’s substitute amendment. Its effects are manifold, but none of them are positive. In fact, the language is the height of hypocrisy several times over.

Kicking Parents and Local Control in the Teeth

For starters, the bill claims to protect parental rights while simultaneously curtailing the rights of the very people elected to represent parents at the local level–their school board members. So, while Thiesfeldt claims to champion local control and parental rights, his language would actually deal a serious blow to both. It amounts to a state edict, prohibiting local school board members from achieving key aspects of what they were elected to do: consider and represent the best interests of local parents and taxpayers.

School boards aren’t a one-way street. They are a local manifestation of representative government. At least, that’s what they’re supposed to be. Not only are school boards elected to represent the will of parents and taxpayers, they have an ethical and fiduciary duty to communicate with those constituents when they have reason to believe that policies or initiatives would cause harm to a district’s students or to their educational opportunities and experience. Yet, Thiesfeldt’s language would curtail this necessary and ethical communication of school boards should it contravene or become inconvenient to the state’s desire to keep the assessment machine running and the stream of personally identifiable student data flowing. It’s one more example of the degree to which local control has become an utter fiction in Wisconsin and that its death has been shepherded not just by Democrats but with the full assistance and initiative of Republicans.

Moreover, the administrative staff of any given district are–in theory, if not current practice–supposed to be directly accountable to the local school board. If local administrative staff feel that opt-out is in the best interests of their students, teachers, and school/s, then they should absolutely be in communication with the school board and working with them to formulate a plan for responsibly advising parents. Should the school board disagree with those administrators, it should remain a matter to be hammered out locally. The state has exactly zero purview to enforce a gag order on any of these people.

Or are we now living in a soviet?

Are local school boards and administrators really just supposed to be consensus-building apparatchiks for a central authority?

Sure seems like that’s what Thiesfeldt’s legislation aims toward.

But fear not, I’m sure the state will do a far better job at graciously, wisely, and benevolently managing school boards, directing administrators, and representing parents…if they just all prostrate themselves low enough and beg quietly and politely enough.

Kicking the 1st Amendment in the Teeth

Thiesfeldt’s language is likewise a stark violation of First Amendment rights. What business does the state have telling anyone what they can and can’t say–much less what school board members, in particular, can say in the course of executing their responsibilities to a local electorate?

The managerialist impulse is clearly alive and well in Madison, and Thiesfeldt has quickly become one of its eager architects.

Kicking Germantown in the Teeth

And then there’s Germantown…the remarkable breakout school district that legislators, such as Representative Thiesfeldt and many of the Republican co-sponsors of his bill, have claimed to admire.

Germantown remains the only school district in the state to reject the Common Core in order to pursue the creation of its own higher, more developmentally appropriate, non-aligned standards. That stance would be admirable enough on its own, but the school board–yes, the SCHOOL BOARD–took the additional courageous step this past spring of sending a letter to parents, recommending that they opt their children out of Common Core-aligned assessments. That direct communication with parents resulted in the achievement of a district opt-out rate of 81 percent.

Under No Child Left Behind, a mere 5 percent opt-out rate invalidates assessment results and prohibits sanctions from being levied against the any school, district, or state where such invalidation occurs. An 81 percent opt-out rate in even one district–resulting from simple, honest, effective communication between school board members and parents–has unquestionably terrified the state’s education centralizers and standardizers. Why? Because it signals that local control could actually come back from the grave in which many state officials have so assiduously attempted to bury it over the years.

In fact, Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction attempted to deliver a smackdown to Germantown last summer, claiming that the school board had violated…wait for it…federal law. That’s hogwash, of course, designed to scare the district back into compliance. There is a seven or eight step sanctions process that would have to ensue before even a dime of federal funding would be lost by any state or local entity. In fact, to date, not one school, district, or state nationwide has experienced a loss of its funding. But the threat certainly gets waved around a lot to scare people into line.

DPI further insisted that Germantown take corrective action to get its assessment participation numbers back up. So far, thank goodness, Germantown continues to tell DPI it’s done nothing wrong and has no need to take any corrective action.

But let’s face it: this language is designed to discourage stories like Germantown’s and has the effect of pointing a gun at that district’s school board and administrators–even if the gun isn’t yet loaded. It signals to school districts across the state that Wisconsin is not interested in maintaining local control–or, indeed, any real, significant, or constitutional separation of powers.

Trading Principle for Status: The Sad Co-Option of a State Legislator

The transformation in Jeremy Thiesfeldt over the past year has been stunning to watch for those engaged in the fight for true education in Wisconsin.

An early champion of those pressing to safeguard what remains of local control and substantive learning in an increasingly top-down, standardized education environment, Thiesfeldt helped to press for and subsequently co-led 2013 legislative efforts to examine so-called education reform in Wisconsin.

Appointed chair of the Assembly’s Select Committee for the Investigation of the Common Core Standards, Jeremy earned true appreciation from many for his efforts to ensure that average citizens and a wide range of informed experts alike would have a chance to contribute to a crucial dialogue on how Wisconsin educates its children. Republican leadership had, in fact, only yielded on public hearings under massive public pressure; it was clear to anyone watching that they would have preferred to continue marginalizing and ignoring the matter. Nevertheless, Thiesfeldt lent a quiet dignity and determination to the investigative process, even though there were clear attempts to undermine his work and that of his fellow committee members.

So where did that Jeremy Thiesfeldt go?

What happened…?

Jeremy rose in rank. That’s what.

He was offered the plum of a standing-committee chairmanship. And in picking up that plum, he appears to have traded his spine, another couple of valuable-but-unnamed body parts, his principles, and his interest in true representative government, all in exchange for rather less noble aspirations and trappings.

I can’t see into Jeremy’s mind. Only he can know why he’s sold out to such a profoundly disappointing degree. But if I were to lay odds, I would bet that he is motivated by a fear of losing the status he’s now attained. He is likely attempting to avoid being relegated to the outer reaches of legislative space by Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos, whose coercive tactics in controlling his caucus have become one of the worst-kept secrets in Wisconsin politics. All too many politicians have whispered to me about those tactics behind closed doors, always ending their alarming tales with, “But you can’t tell anyone I said this. I can’t afford to have it get out that I told you.”

There’s good reason to suspect, then, that the moment he accepted his Education Committee chairmanship, a few key folks started to tell Jeremy exactly what he’d have to do to keep it. In accepting a role he likely thought would enable him to assist people, he unwittingly donned his own choke chain.

If you think I’m going to let him off the hook and ask you to feel sorry for him, guess again.

Time to Grow a Set, Jeremy

When Jeremy Thiesfeldt was elected to office, he undertook constitutional and ethical duties to represent the interests of the constituents of his district. The people who voted for him did so in the belief that he would take difficult but principled positions on the issues. They trusted him to stand tall and represent, not cave in to bullying, not cower in a corner, and certainly not to sell out by doing other people’s bidding.

In these respects, “Representative” Thiesfeldt currently appears to have reached his level of incompetence. In any event, there’s no doubt that he’s failing. He is proving himself utterly unable to stand firm on principle. Quite bluntly, he is proving himself completely incapable of standing at all. The only thing he seems to be good at these days is serving false masters from a prone position.

As a measure of tough love and in a spirit of hope that he can turn himself around and get back on the right path, I would remind Jeremy Thiesfeldt that he wasn’t elected to serve Robin Vos. He wasn’t elected to serve Scott Walker (whose bullying tactics, usually via his legislative liaisons, are also an open secret). He wasn’t elected to serve Tony Evers. When it comes to education, he definitely shouldn’t be serving the pubic-private aims of special interests such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Moreover, despite the messages that he’s undoubtedly received from leadership, the Republican caucus is not his family. He owes his caucus ZERO allegiance. The only people to whom he owes any loyalty whatsoever are his constituents and, in relationship to this specific bill, the parents and children of Wisconsin–all of whom he’s currently betraying.

The question is, will Jeremy find his courage? Will he finally remember his duty to higher ideals and principles such as local control, ethical representation, true education, parental rights, and free speech?

Or will he choose instead to continue his all-too-rapid descent into the bowels of a corrupt political machine?

Here’s the thing, Jeremy, if you are indeed reading this…

Bullies and manipulators don’t go away when you cower. They will continue to pull your strings and levers until you say, “No more.”

Even if it means losing a chairmanship, getting kicked off a committee, or having your bills blocked, isn’t it better to take those knocks while remaining true to your principles and the people you were elected to serve? When leadership starts dealing those blows, we will see you standing strong. Your principles will contrast sharply with the corrupt machinations of others…and they’ll matter. You’ll matter. True success isn’t about clinging to power. It’s about speaking truth to power. Often, it’s about being a monkey wrench in the machinery of power. When you stand up, when you resist, when we see you do it, it’s the start of something bigger. It lights a spark. It feeds a movement. There are plenty of examples out there–including some in your own back yard.

Right now, you’re part of the problem, not the solution. You look like leadership’s broken slave, not a confident champion of the people who’s willing to use his wits to buck a corrupt system.

What matters more to you, Jeremy? Is it your credibility and honor in the eyes of the people you were actually elected to serve? Or the tenuous figurehead status cynically given to you by people who are determined always to jerk you into their preferred line.

What’s it gonna be, Jeremy?

We’re watching, and our patience for the evils to which you are now contributing has run out.

Ten Year Sentence: Locked Into Common Core by Cronyism and Deception

Scott Walker Sentences Wisconsin Students to Ten Years on Common Core

Scott Walker Sentences Wisconsin Students to Ten Years on Common Core

We have reported here that, even though Scott Walker’s biennial budget contained language that says “no effect shall be given to Common Core standards,” the Wisconsin Department of Administration bidding process on the new Badger Exam made very clear that the new state assessments in mathematics and English language arts will indeed be Common Core aligned.

On September 10, 2015 the Department of Administration announced that a panel consisting of four Department of Public Instruction officials and one “other person” had chosen Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) as the winner of the bidding process on the new state assessment, now renamed the Wisconsin Forward Assessment. DRC had beaten at least two other companies, Pearson Education and ACT, Inc. and is in the process of negotiating a ten year contract valued at a reported $63 million with the state of Wisconsin.

Data Recognition Corporation – A Major Common Core Player

Though not as well known as some of the major players in the Common Core area, DRC collaborated with American Institute for Research (AIR) to develop the test delivery system for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Yes, this is the same test delivery system that ran into so many technical problems in the 2014-2015 school year that the Badger Exam needed to be scaled back and the results effectively ignored.  From the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consotium press release:

The test delivery system encompasses test registration, presenting the assessment items to students, and delivering the data from the test to reporting systems. Under this contract, AIR, in collaboration with Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), will modify its existing test delivery system to meet Smarter Balanced specifications for the Pilot Test of the assessment system in early 2013 and the Field Test in early 2014. AIR’s system is used by several states to deliver statewide online assessments. It is compatible with the range of technology in schools, including computers, laptops, and tablets—requiring only a secure Internet browser for administration. The system will be optimized for release in its open source version in fall 2014.

DRC describes its role in developing the Smarter Balanced Assessments:

Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), a leading provider of educational assessment, survey, and document services, today announced that it is part of a team selected by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) to develop the first set of nearly 10,000 student test questions for the new Common Core Assessments.

DRC will work collaboratively with five partners to develop the test items for the Smarter Balanced assessment system. DRC’s partners include the prime contractor, CTB/McGraw-Hill, The American Institutes for Research, The Council for Aid to Education, HumRRO, and The College Board.

“DRC is delighted to be part of this innovative partnership of six unique organizations dedicated to delivering Smarter Balanced’s next generation performance assessments and technology-enhanced items,” said DRC Chief Executive Officer and President Susan Engeleiter. “We will all work together to ensure Smarter Balanced’s vision for the next generation of student assessments is achieved.””

On June 30, 2015, DRC acquired the CTB assessment business from major Common Core player McGraw-Hill.  CTB is the creator of the Common Core aligned Terra Nova Common Core Tests and Assessments.  CTB has an 85 year track record in standardized testing.  With the addition of CTB, DRC has significantly deepened its commitment to Common Core. Many of the key players at CTB are now working for DRC.

DRC’s own website touts the company’s expertise in implementing Common Core:

DRC is a leader in helping states transition to new standards or to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In this role, we have been instrumental in helping our state clients implement a variety of transition strategies ranging from helping them design a new assessment system to helping them increase the rigor of an existing system.

Our tasks have ranged from serving as national content experts providing support to alignment of the common core to existing state standards to working with a given state’s educators to develop a new set of career- and college-readiness standards.  DRC’s work through the years in developing items and tests for numerous state testing programs and in conducting over 300 alignment studies has uniquely prepared our team to provide this support to states in transition.

The bottom line is that DRC has been a major player in developing the Smarter Balanced assessment, collaborating with other major players like CTB McGraw-Hill, the Student Board (creators of the SAT), and AIR.  With the acquisition of CTB from McGraw-Hill, DRC has doubled down on its commitment to Common Core.  They are heavily invested in getting states to transition to Common Core standards.

Ten Year Sentence

Now, we already knew that, despite Governor Walker’s claims to the contrary, defunding the Smarter Balanced assessment in Wisconsin did not prevent Wisconsin from implementing a Common Core aligned state assessment.  In fact, the three bids entertained by the Department of Administration were all by major players in Common Core assessment: Pearson Education, ACT, Inc., and Digital Recognition Corporation.  It has come to light that the Department of Administration will be negotiating a ten year contract with the winner of the bid process, DRC, for a reported $63 million.  This effectively locks down the Wisconsin state assessments to be Common Core aligned for the next ten years!

Bill Gates, whose foundation is a major funder of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, has said:

When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.

Many agree that the assessments drive curriculum, especially when coupled with high stakes accountability measures like we are implementing in Wisconsin.  So, we have effectively sentenced Wisconsin students to ten years of Common Core curriculum.  Quite a contrast from the claims in Scott Walker’s budget that say “no effect shall be given to Common Core standards.” There is indeed an effect – A TEN YEAR EFFECT!

The Walker Effect

Why has Governor Walker said he is against Common Core and claimed he stopped Common Core in Wisconsin and yet failed to actually prevent the state from locking in a Common Core curriculum for ten years?  It might have a little to do with Walker’s campaign donors… well, it might have a LOT to do with Walker’s campaign donors.

Almost as soon as DRC was announced as the winner of the bidding process for the Wisconsin Forward Exam, it was revealed that DRC President Susan Engeleiter had donated $10,000 to the Scott Walker campaign during Walker’s recall election.  A spokeswoman for Susan Engeleiter of Data Recognition Corp. said the donation occurred months before the state issued its request for proposals and that DRC staff had no discussions with the governor or his aides about a potential contract.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel posits:

Engeleiter contributed $10,000 to the Republican governor’s 2014 re-election campaign, her largest political contribution in nearly two decades, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Before the Walker donation, Engeleiter had contributed $100 to $200 to legislative candidates and $500 to Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers’ 2013 campaign.

This makes one wonder whether Ms. Engeleiter’s $10,000 contribution to the Governor’s campaign had anything to do with DRC securing the $63 million contract to produce the Wisconsin Forward Exam. (It should be noted that Ms. Engeleiter also contributed $500 to Department of Public Instruction Secretary Tony Evers’ 2013 campaign.  That surely didn’t hurt DRC’s chances to secure this contract.)

Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, said neither the governor, nor his staff, was involved in the procurement process and that the selection was made by the Department of Public Instruction.  That may be, but the contribution may well have had an effect on the Governor’s clever wording of his budget proposals that made things appear he was against Common Core but left the door open for Common Core aligned state assessments.

However, there may be more going on here than just Susan Engeleiter’s $10,000 contribution…

Deeper Connections Between DRC’s Engeleiter and Scott Walker

The information in this section is quoted verbatim from wonderful research done by blogger lufthase at The Daily Kos in an article called WI Crony Capitalism: A Family Affair:

Susan Engeleiter’s father, Arthur W. Shannon, ran a Milwaukee-area flooring business. He was a well-known Republican fundraiser, rising to the ranks of State GOP Finance Chair in the 1970s. He had four children, Michael, Thomas, Dan, and Susan.

Michael S. Shannon is an investor in resorts and “leisure businesses.” He and his wife Mary Sue Goodspeed Shannon have donated $120k in “hard money” to Walker’s gubernatorial campaigns. Clearly that wasn’t enough to put their boy Scotty over the top, so they also kicked in a cool $1 million to the Republican Governors Association in 2014.   Eleven days after that contribution was made to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), “the RGA did transfer $1 million to its Right Direction political action committee, which is the entity running the ads in Wisconsin critical of Burke.“  Mary Burke was Walker’s Democrat opponent in the 2014 race for Wisconsin Governor.  Michael and Mary Sue Shannon have also pitched in $250k to Walker’s federal “Our American Revival” PAC so far this year.

Thomas M. Shannon is an investor in several WI businesses (more on that later) and has contributed a more modest $16,500 to Walker’s state campaigns. However, he and his wife Sue did show up to Scott Walker’s Presidential campaign kickoff event with the federal maximum $5,400 in hand. (Not for nothing, this 7/13 fundraiser would have been during the bidding process for the new state exams.)

Dan Shannon is a Senior Vice President at FIS Global (formerly Metavante, formerly the division of M&I Bank responsible for Wisconsinites referring to ATMs as “Tyme Machines”). He and his wife Lynn have contributed $3,450 to Walker’s state campaigns. They also attended Walker’s Presidential kickoff gala, contributing $1,000.

Of course this comes back around to WEDC…

With all this campaign cash flying around, you knew there would be some awards coming back the other way from Scott Walker’s slush-fund “job-creation” outfit, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Thomas M. Shannon has a personal ownership stake in at least four companies that have so far received $3.6M from WEDC:

  • Aver Informatics Inc    10/05/11    $525,000 Tax Credit
  • Okanjo Partners, Inc.    09/01/11    $2,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Shamrock Energy Corporation    06/05/13    $150,000 Loan
  • Somna Therapeutics, LLC    04/13/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit

Additionally, all four siblings are founding partners in the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation. This is a 501(c)(3) that gets its nonprofit status specifically because it “assists” and “reduces the burden” of WEDC. BrightStar’s leadership team includes out-going WEDC CEO Reed Hall and former WEDC VP Lisa Johnson.

It’s an interesting setup. BrightStar solicits tax-deductible donations from wealthy people and foundations and then they hand that capital to technology start-ups in WI. Despite the nonprofit label and philanthropic language, they do take ownership stakes in the businesses they fund. The hope is that somewhere down the line a few of these start-ups will have massive IPOs, and they’ll then be able to re-invest their profit in even more start-ups. I’ll leave it to the reader to ponder what happens if their investment success ever outpaces their ability to find new viable start-ups in WI.

BrightStar’s investment portfolio has benefited from over $17.5M in WEDC awards thus far:

  • Beekeeper labs, Inc.    10/16/14    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Emopti, Inc.    03/13/15    $175,000 Tax Credit
  • Fishidy, Inc.    07/23/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Forward Health Group, Inc    06/30/14    $2,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Modern Movement, Inc.    03/27/15    $125,000 Tax Credit
  • Okanjo Partners, Inc.    09/01/11    $2,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Pinpoint Softwares, Inc.    02/01/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Protein Foundry, LLC    06/23/14    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • Quietyme, Inc.    07/15/13    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • SHINE Medical Technologies, Inc.    05/19/14    $2,000,000 Tax Credit
  • SHINE Medical Technologies, Inc.    12/12/13    $4,000,000 Loan
  • Swallow Solutions, LLC    02/02/12    $135,000 Loan
  • The Good Jobs, Inc.    11/07/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • The Good Jobs, Inc.    12/11/14    $70,000 Loan
  • WholeTrees, LLC    06/19/12    $1,000,000 Tax Credit
  • WholeTrees, LLC    06/11/14    $170,000 Loan

All totalled, Engeleiter and her siblings donated over $1.4 million to Scott Walker’s advancement.  The family is enmeshed in Republican politics for generations and heavily involved with Scott Walker’s WEDC.

Data Recognition Corporation in Need of Help

It should be pointed out that Data Recognition Corporation did considerable downsizing just one year ago (September, 2014) due to “revenue impacts from uncertainty in K-12 education, including test changes and ‘political battles’ at state education departments.”

It is certainly not beyond belief that the Governor left the door open to having the Wisconsin Forward Exam being produced by a company with ties to a powerful Wisconsin political family that had contributed very, very generously to his past and current campaigns.  Could this be why he called for the defunding of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and for ending the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Wisconsin, but stopped just short of demanding that Wisconsin not have a Common Core aligned assessment.  This Governor and his Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation have moved heaven and earth for much smaller donations.

One has to ask whether or not Scott Walker came to the aid of a company run by a member of a family that contributed heavily to his political success.

Locked Into Common Core

It is now confirmed that the new Wisconsin State Assessment, the Wisconsin Forward Exam, will be Common Core aligned, produced by a Common Core powerhouse, and, with the Governor’s emphasis on accountability, curriculum will also necessarily become Common Core aligned.  Money has flowed into the Governor’s coffers and now money has flowed back to companies owned by contributors via the WEDC and now through a lucrative DPI contract.  Everyone wins, except the children.  Students are locked into Common Core curriculum and high stakes testing for ten years.

Long after the checks are cashed and politics has run its course the children growing up under the cronyism and deception exhibited by Governor Walker will be left lamenting their education.  Selfish decisions made today will impact our children’s futures dramatically. Scott Walker’s legacy will not be one of reforming education for the better.  Instead, Scott Walker is leaving a legacy of shameless self promotion, deception, trickery, and unabashed cronyism.

 

Constituent Alleges Repeated Deception in Wisconsin

What follows is a well reasoned letter concerning the deception involved with Wisconsin’s embrace of the Common Core, hiding of the results of 2015 Common Core Aligned Smarter Balanced assessments under AB78, and Wisconsin’s march toward test based accountability under AB1.  It should serve as a good example of how to communicate with legislators:

  • Provide reasoned arguments,
  • Crystalize your argument with a single word or phrase (in this case “deception”), and
  • Very clearly asks for action.

Please continue to make calls and emails on AB1 and AB78 to your legislator and members of the Assembly Committee on Education.

Re: AB1 AND AB78

Way to Go!  The Wisconsin Legislature just passed Right to work – after how many decades?  This freedom is truly good news for all of Wisconsin’s workers.

Now workers can choose whether or not to join a union and pay dues, but parents and students do not have a similar choice regarding Common Core and the related tests.  What happened to their freedom to choose?

Common Core was conceived in deception and we know that professional educators did not sign off on Common Core standards.

The deception continued for three years when DPI Superintendent Tony Evers did not disclose to Wisconsin state legislators that he had signed Wisconsin on to Common Core for the entire state’s Public School children.

More deception continued these same three years as DPI and local school districts were busy implementing Common Core to hundreds of thousands of public school children without holding required public hearings.

And now this legislation intends to end LOCAL CONTROL?  The district administrator is hired.  School Board members are elected.   Why this deception?

More deception when districts ask for additional funds through referendums “for the children.”  My husband and I are retired.  Our real estate taxes have gone up considerably due to new technology.  And significant overhead staffing, which I’m sure occurs at many districts statewide.

After the 2012 local referendum passed, the local superintendentreceived a 14.57% pay increase which included a $6,600 car allowance.  There are only three campuses in our district, a total drive of about 40 miles from one end to the other.  The salary survey indicated he was due for a parity raise comparable to income of other district superintendents.   Listed are salary levels.

2013 – 2014    $193,090.95
2014 – 2015    $199,090.95 – 5 weeks vacation – $6000 pay raise
2015 – 2015    $205,090.95 – 6 weeks vacation – another $6000 pay raise

School District Administrators / Superintendents are high-priced talent ($150K – $200K+) and it may take a year for a school district to hire a replacement.  Therefore, many school boards take the advice of the district administrator, which may or may not coincide with the wishes of the local community.

Does this new legislation deceptively make the superintendent accountable to DPI in Madison or will accountability remain with the local school board, parents and community?

Deception again as teachers must teach to the curriculum and are not allowed to voice opposition.  Who can parents and taxpayers believe or trust?  Teachers?  Administrators?  Legislators?   DPI???

It’s almost five years into Common Core for Wisconsin school children. Students have been taught the ‘rigorous’ Common Core standards. Now students are about to be tested according to Common Core with a predicted 40 percent failure rate for students!

DOES ANYBODY SEE A PROBLEM WITH THIS DECEPTION?

Millions of dollars have been taken from the federal government for Common Core, (a bribe???). Now hundreds of thousands of students have been taught according to those rigorous standards. And now the proof of the pudding is the test.

And the legislators and DPI don’t think the results should be publicized?

DOES ANYBODY SEE A PROBLEM WITH THIS DECEPTION?

I am a retired taxpayer without children in Wisconsin public schools.

However, as a parent, I would be furious that the state of Wisconsin legislators and DPI is forcing this test on innocent children. This is tantamount to abuse. With the current legislation under proposal, AB1 and AB78, the students take a horrible test and then the failing results are hidden from the public.

DOES ANYBODY SEE A PROBLEM WITH THIS DECEPTION?

Results must be made public.

Legislators were elected to legislate on behalf of ALL of the citizens in the state. Not just those who are going to profit by this test.  FOLLOW THE MONEY!

  • the curriculum writers
  • the test writers
  • the test givers

But what about the children, the parents, the elected school board members, the highly paid administrators, and the taxpayers who have no children in the district but a substantial financial commitment called real estate taxes?

Drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on research.  However, if the results do not benefit patients (customers) THEY DROP THE RESEARCH!  Money spent – lesson learned – life goes on to something better.

It’s time to pull this legislation and drop it from further consideration.

Shirley Kufeldt
Conover, WI

SAY NO TO AB 1 AND THE DEATH OF LOCAL CONTROL!!!

state-accountability-kills-local-control

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt’s School Accountability Bill has morphed into a LOCAL CONTROL DEATH BILL.

At the hearings back in January, Thiesfeldt promised that modifications would be done to improve this bill, but it appears it HAS ONLY GOTTEN WORSE for our children and our freedom.

I’m sure you’ve all heard politicians talk about how Wisconsin is a “Local Control State”… often time with a wink and a nod. In case you had any doubts, this bill clears it up. Local control in Wisconsin is at best lip-service. It is not respected by our legislature, DPI, or the governor.

AB1 IS THE FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF LOCAL CONTROL IN WISCONSIN

From the bill language (emphasis my own):

In addition, the school board or operator of a charter school other than an independent charter school MUST authorize the school district administrator to act, UNILATERALLY and on matters related to the operation and administration of the school that is subject to sanctions, CONTRARY TO policies and procedures adopted by THE SCHOOL BOARD. The substitute amendment PROHIBITS the school board from retaliating against the school district administrator for any lawful actions undertaken pursuant to this authority.

The bill further enables superintendents to SUE school boards should they attempt to fire or discipline their superintendent for carrying out…THE STATE’S WILL. Not the will of LOCAL PARENTS AND TAXPAYERS. Not the will of the SCHOOL BOARDS that represent them. The STATE OF WISCONSIN’S will.

THAT IS NOT LOCAL CONTROL! THAT IS STATE COERCION!

How exactly does such a measure honor local control? School boards are being told they MUST cede their own authority and proper representation of the people that elected them, handing their authority instead to an APPOINTED superintendent who will carry out the will of the State? Moreover, how does this not incentivize superintendents to achieve failure in order to gain powers that supersede their local boards’?

THIS BILL IS A THREAT TO YOUR CHILDREN

It guarantees that children will spend ever increasing amounts of time in high stakes testing and test preparation. It assures that less and less time will be spent on actual learning and in subjects like shop, home economics, art, music and even science and history.

THIS BILL IS A THREAT TO TEACHERS

It reduces teachers to a value added measure based on their students’ performance on Common Core aligned assessments. This objectifies and deprofessionalizes teachers. They will be forced to teach to the standards and teach to the test instead of treating each of their students as a unique, valuable individual.

THIS IS A THREAT TO YOUR FREEDOM

Let’s be clear on what this is: AB1 is the state putting chains around the wrists and duct tape on the mouths of local citizens and their ELECTED representatives. Are there problems in some school districts? Sure. Is this the way to solve them? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

THIS BILL HAS IT ALL

  1. Unelected, unaccountable boards.
  2. State takeover of schools.
  3. Invalid value added measures correlating several tests in a way absolutely nobody can comprehend.
  4. Top down control of local school districts from the State with threats against any local representative that would intercede for the people.
  5. A timeline to passage that allows no discussion on the matter. (Thiesfeldt says it will be voted on by the full legislature in less than a week)

A legislator that votes for this bill needs to know this is not the last they will hear of accountability. They will each be held accountable at the ballot box. A governor that signs such an overreach into law needs to know he will not get our support!
1. CALL JEREMY THIESFELDT

Call Jeremy Thiesfeldt, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee and tell him that he needs to pull his bill — that it runs contrary to our local control statutes and to the representative system under which we [supposedly] live. Ask him what exactly representative government means to him while you’re at it. Tell him we will not accept the undermining of our local representatives, that it is our job to deal with them if they fail and to ensure that they deal appropriately with the people they appoint on our behalf. PERIOD.

JEREMY THIESFELDT’S OFFICE: (608) 266-3156
EMAIL: Rep.Thiesfeldt@legis.wisconsin.gov
TOLL FREE LEGISLATIVE SWITCHBOARD: (800) 362-9472

2. CALL YOUR ASSEMBLYMAN

Call your own assemblyman as well to ensure that they’re not tempted to support this revised bill for even one moment. You can find them by using the “Find My Legislators” here: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/

3. CALL THE ASSEMBLY EDUCATION COMMITTEE

Call each of the members of the assembly education committee:

  • Representative Thiesfeldt (Chair) – (608) 266-3156
  • Representative Kitchens (Vice-Chair) – (608) 266-5350
  • Representative Jagler – (608) 266-9650
  • Representative Knudson – (608) 266-1526
  • Representative Rodriguez – (608) 282-3621
  • Representative R. Brooks – (608) 267-2369
  • Representative Horlacher – (608) 266-5715
  • Representative Murphy – (608) 266-7500
  • Representative Quinn – (608) 266-2519
  • Representative Hutton – (608) 267-9836
  • Representative Pope – (608) 266-3520
  • Representative Sinicki – (608) 266-8588
  • Representative Genrich – (608) 266-0616
  • Representative Barnes – (608) 266-3756
  • Representative Considine – (608) 266-7746

DO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN TO STOP THIS STATE TAKEOVER OF OUR SCHOOLS!

SAY NO TO AB 1 AND THE DEATH OF LOCAL CONTROL!!!

own-it

Congratulations. You Own It.

An Open Letter to Wisconsin State Elected Officials on the Full and Imminent Implementation of Common Core State Standards

April 23, 2014

At the beginning of April, the Wisconsin State Legislature concluded its 2014 floor sessions. Yet, Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—the single most prominent issue of the last year in Wisconsin politics—remains unaddressed. As leadership has announced that the legislature will now take a nine-month hiatus, CCSS is unlikely to see any serious opposition at the state level until at least January of 2015.

With CCSS presently retaining status as official state standards, and Smarter Balanced assessments scheduled to roll out this fall for the 2014-2015 school year, the legislature’s failure to act means that total implementation of CCSS is now imminent in Wisconsin. Smarter Balanced assessments are the enforcement mechanism that will be used to ensure compliance with CCSS and aligned curricula.

Because Smarter Balanced assessments have not been in place in Wisconsin up to now, our state has not yet experienced the full reality of CCSS. This fact has allowed several individuals in key positions on both sides of the aisle to tout the standards’ alleged benefits in a manner that few in Wisconsin currently have the experience or the courage to refute. The haze created by this well funded and heavily marketed campaign of misinformation has resulted in confusion, inaction, and even active pro-CCSS entrenchment on the part of many state legislators, district and school administrators, the business community, and even some parents and teachers. Meanwhile, the informed parents, teachers, and taxpayers who have explored CCSS beyond the superficial talking points have been championed only by a small but dedicated coterie of legislators. Those legislators who did understand and make an effort to jettison or undercut CCSS found themselves effectively sidelined by those with greater influence and higher positions of authority.

Well done, then, to Wisconsin’s state-level CCSS advocates. You’ve won this round. You successfully convinced many that rejection of CCSS was just an issue of the “fringe” Tea Party. Despite the wishes of constituents, you ensured that a true CCSS kill-bill never saw the light of day. You ensured that other legislation that might help to undermine CCSS was watered down, marginalized, or killed outright. CCSS will proceed on schedule. Kudos to you.

But be careful about celebrating this victory.

Everything is about to change.

With the deployment of the Smarter Balanced assessments, the rosy CCSS talking points upon which you have relied are about to be exposed for what they are. CCSS is going to cause pain in this state. And in the blame game that ensues, those who have facilitated CCSS either actively or by their inaction will quickly become vulnerable.

Congratulations. You own it.

What exactly do you now own?

  • You own the unhealthy and as yet unimagined degree of pressure that will shortly be placed on Wisconsin children to perform on an unending stream of standardized assessments with little validity.  http://bit.ly/tests-hurt
  • You own the fact that even students previously considered high achievers are likely to fail the Smarter Balanced assessments in droves, providing a false measure of both performance and underperformance. http://bit.ly/unending-tests
  • You own the inaccurate labeling of “underperforming schools” and the subsequent school closings that CCSS and the Smarter Balanced assessments have, in part, been engineered to ensure.  http://bit.ly/underperforming
  • You own the injudicious use of student performance on Smarter Balanced assessments to judge wrongly and misleadingly the quality of teachers.  http://bit.ly/teacher-quality
  • You own the shredding of the art of teaching—the reduction of teachers to proctors in their own classrooms—by means of extensive embedded pedagogy within CCSS that doesn’t just demand compliance from teachers concerning what to teach but also how to teach it. http://bit.ly/kills-creativity, http://bit.ly/demoralize-teachers
  • You own the convoluted and bizarre teaching methods embedded within CCSS pedagogy and the ways in which they will cripple many students’ ability to understand and learn.  http://bit.ly/cripple-students, http://bit.ly/not-teaching
  • You own the distress of parents as they realize they can no longer assist their children with homework because not even as competent adults can they understand the methods by which their children are now being taught.  http://bit.ly/parents-dont-understand
  • You own the rejection of individualism that is part and parcel of the CCSS mandate to teach the same and yield the same, regardless of the unique character, learning styles, circumstances, and aspirations of each child. http://bit.ly/different-styles
  • You own the vast frustration with learning that CCSS is guaranteed to yield as well as the utter disinterest in learning that will spring from it.  http://bit.ly/ccss-frustration, http://bit.ly/ccss-dropout
  • You own the widget-factory schools that CCSS will create.  http://bit.ly/ccss-widget
  • You own the fact that the for-profit charter schools intended to replace “failing” public schools will likewise be CCSS-based widget factories, enriching no one but the people who collect the tuition.  http://bit.ly/ccss-for-profit
  • You own the fact that, under CCSS, students who want to reach farther will only be prepared for a two-year non-selective college, not a four-year university.  http://bit.ly/non-selective
  • You own the coming anger of local taxpayers who will soon realize that you have essentially pushed them into an unfunded mandate—CCSS infrastructure and training costs that will likely exceed the expectations and budgets of most school districts.  http://bit.ly/ccss-high-cost
  • You own the additional taxpayer anger that will result when they discover that all of the spending you helped to push them into was for an initiative doomed to failure from the outset.  http://bit.ly/ccss-doomed
  • You own the invasion of student and family privacy that CCSS furthers through its data gathering, data storage, and data mining components.  http://bit.ly/ccss-privacy
  • You own this initiative’s disregard of the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government no authority over education, as well as the its disregard of at least three federal laws forbidding the federal government from involvement in school standards and curriculum.  http://bit.ly/ccss-unconstitutional
  • You own the undercutting of Wisconsin children’s ability to determine their own unbounded future. http://bit.ly/biz-demands
  • And much, much more…

And the saddest part about this long and troubling list of items you’ve just owned?

It was all avoidable.

Apparently, it is not enough for Wisconsin to learn from the experiences of others. Instead, we must have the full experience—sacrificing the education and mental wellbeing of children, breaking the trust of parents, demoralizing teachers, and picking the pockets of taxpayers.

Even a modicum of honest research should have revealed to you precisely what we and many others have found—that despite the billions spent on marketing spin, CCSS is nothing new. It’s merely a doubling-down on every failed education reform of the past thirty years; truly the lipstick-clad pig.

Just a glance to the east would have revealed that full implementation of CCSS has already been a complete train wreck in states like New York and Kentucky, causing massive public outcry from parents, teachers, and taxpayers alike. Conservatives and progressives are fighting CCSS hand-in-hand in those states and elsewhere, as they increasingly will be here. Are you aware that they’re taking names and working to remove people from office in New York and elsewhere over this “education” fiasco?  Do you think that same thing won’t happen in Wisconsin?  Do you think it hasn’t already begun?

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Common Core State Standards are all yours now.

Sincerely,

Eric Shimpach
Wisconsin State Coordinator
Young Americans for Liberty
Morgan Gianola
Young Americans for Liberty – Carthage College
Kenosha, WI
Dustin Hwang
Young Americans for Liberty – Marquette University
Milwaukee, WI
Madelyn Winter
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Green Bay
Green Bay, WI
Savannah Bartel
Young Americans for Liberty – University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI
Charles Hunt
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Oshkosh
Oshkosh, WI
Matt Haase
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Stout
Menomonie, WI
John Linné
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Superior
Superior, WI
Michael Cummins
Dane County Campaign for Liberty
Madison, WI
Alan Scholl
Executive Director
FreedomProject Education
Appleton, WI
Duke Pesta
Academic Director
FreedomProject Education
Appleton, WI
Mary Black
Student Development Director
FreedomProject Education
Appleton, WI
Tina Hollenbeck
The Educational Freedom Coalition
Green Bay, WI
Kristi Lacroix
Parent
Kenosha, WI
Tracie Happel
Teacher & Parent
Onalaska, WI
Dan Curran
Eagle Forum of Wisconsin
Dodgeville, WI
Sandi Ruggles
Eagle Forum of Southeast Wisconsin
Menomonee Falls, WI
Jane Carpenter
Suburban Republican Women’s Club
Milwaukee, WI
Charles Brey
United in Freedom
Beaver Dam, WI
Joana Briggs
Greendale Tea Party
Greendale, WI
Kip Ertel
We The People
Sheboygan, WI
Michael Hintze
Tea Party Patriots
Wisconsin
Earl Hoffman
Clark County Tea Party
Greenwood, WI
Jackie Johnson
Concerned Citizens of Dane County
Madison, WI
Sidney Johnson
Central Wisconsin Tea Party
Marshfield, WI
James Leist
Manitowoc County TEA Movement
Manitowoc, WI
Andrea Lombard
Sauk County Tea Party
Baraboo, WI
Darin Danelski
Lake Country Area Defenders of Liberty
Oconomowoc, WI
Karl Koenigs
Wisconsin TEA Party Committee on State Sovereignty
Peshtigo, WI
Steve Welcenbach
Separately for each: Conservative Insurgency & Menomonee Falls Taxpayer Association
Menomonee Falls, WI
Ed Willing
FoundersIntent.Org
Caledonia, WI
Jennifer London
SpotOfTea.Org
Pete Platt
Columbia County Freedom Coalition
Portage, WI
Ronald Zahn
Northeast Wisconsin Patriots
DePere, WI
Richard Parins
Member of The Brown County Taxpayers Association
Green Bay, WI
James Murphy
Green Bay TEA Party
Green Bay, WI
Greg Luce
The La Crosse Tea Party
La Crosse, WI
Georgia Janisch
Rock County Voter Education Forum
Janesville, WI
David Stertz
Fox Valley Conservative Forum
Appleton, WI
Kim Simac
Northwoods Patriots
Eagle River, WI
Joanne Terry
Ozaukee Patriots
Mequon, WI
Marv Munyon
Rock River Patriots
Fort Atkinson, WI
Kirsten Lombard
The Wisconsin 9/12 Project
Madison, WI
Edward Perkins
Fox Valley Initiative
Appleton, WI
Jeffrey Horn
Prairie Patriots
Sun Prairie, WI

 

 

 

Local Control: Districts Have the Right But Not the Ability

standardized-mind After many, many hours of expert and public testimony about Common Core, it now seems that most of our legislators have totally missed the point of those raising concerns about this homogenization of students and almost abusive increases in standardized testing.  There are a few exceptions, Senators Leah Vukmir and Paul Farrow seem to understand that creating standardized minds enforced by ever increasing testing will serve neither Wisconsin, nor our nation well.  However, the bills we have seen put forward after the hearings have not dealt with any of these issues.  None of them deal with the adoption of standards, the onerous testing being inflicted on students, or the de facto loss of local control that Common Core standardization brings.

The bills we have seen offered to date deal with the collection of biometric data on students and the privacy of personally identifiable data collected on students in Wisconsin.  To be sure, there are serious concerns about these issues.  It’s easy to see how parents and students would not want their personally identifiable information shared in a global or national database.  These bills are necessary to protect our privacy from government and corporate exploitation, but they are nowhere near sufficient for stemming the federal and corporate control of the curricula in our local schools.

We have even seen one bill, offered by Rep. Knudson, that would leave the existing Common Core standards and associated Smarter Balanced assessments in place for several years and starting in 2016 would allow a committee appointed by DPI to determine which standards and assessments need to be in place.  This bill allows the legislature to totally ignore by having an unelected committee, hand picked by DPI determine what is best for our children.  Talk about the fox guarding the hen house!  The legislature, our elected representatives, must be the ones that take an active role in setting and vetting any standards used in Wisconsin and they must do it immediately, not several years from now!

I’ve heard many experts, school officials, and legislators claim that Wisconsin is a “local control state.”  Under local control of schools, the Department of Public Instruction has the responsibility to develop baseline standards that each school may enrich.  It is interesting that in choosing Common Core standards to serve as these baseline standards, DPI already falls short of its responsibility.  You see, Common Core Standards are copyrighted by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The copyright itself says that they may only be augmented by fifteen percent and nothing may be deleted from the standards.  As such, Common Core standards are a very poor base for local districts to enrich.  There is already copyright control that handcuffs local districts, limiting what they are able to do.

From the point of view of the Common Core standards authors this is an entirely reasonable thing to put in the copyright.  The whole point of Common Core Standards is to have a standard that is held in COMMON nationwide.  If local school districts are allowed to deviate too much from the standard, they would no longer be common and that would defeat the whole point of having common standards.  By adopting Common Core standards for Wisconsin, DPI is already asserting a value judgement that districts should hold to common standards and deviate as little as possible.  DPI Superintendent Tony Evers adopted these standards immediately after they were first released on June 2, 2010.  There was no leglislative input.  These was little input sought from parents or school districts about their suitability for Wisconsin’s children.  Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of being the very first state in the nation to adopt Common Core!  We have an imperial DPI superintendent and a lack of legislative oversight to thank for that.

But local school districts have the right to use alternative standards, correct?  Well, like so many things, local school districts have the right but not the ability! Tony Evers has said in his testimony on Common Core that it would not be advisable for districts to choose alternative standards or to augment the Common Core standards significantly because that may cause them to do poorly on Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced Assessments.  If they teach too much outside of the standards, they won’t have sufficient time to cover everything in the standards.  That would have dire consequences for school districts and could result in school closings, loss of charters for charter schools, or inability to accept vouchers for voucher schools.

Teachers need to teach to the standards as they are or suffer consequences that could include loss of raises, no promotions or even dismissal.  Teachers are ranked on value added measures that are heavily weighted to reflect their students’ performance on Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced assessments.  Enriching our students beyond the standards is in nobody’s interest… not the teachers’ personal interests, not in the local district’s interest, and not the state’s interest. 

Who have they left out of the equation?  You’ve got it… the student.  The mandated testing enforces the Common Core standards and enriches everyone EXCEPT OUR CHILDREN We have created a ceiling on what our children are expected to learn and it is nobody’s interest to see our students rise above that ceiling.  If a school districts could muster the votes to choose another set of standards, it would be to their and their teachers’ detriment.  Of course it is in our children’s and parents’ interest to see our children rise above any artificial ceiling and fly as high as their imagination, creativity, and hard work will take them.  But those in control of education don’t want that.  The system is rigged to enforce conformity. 

Most school boards in Wisconsin suffer from unanimity disorder.  There are exceptions, but to a large extent school boards in Wisconsin have been rubber stamping initiatives put forward by school district superintendents and administrations with alarming regularity.  They take the input of educational experts on district staff and accept it as gospel.  It is rare to see votes on local school boards that are not unanimous.  District staff is largely beholden to DPI, CESA’s, and the federal Department of Education in determining what is best for students.  Parental, student, and teacher input is given little weight by most school board members when considering policies.  Many school boards openly admit how proud they are about how much they agree with the district superintendent.  Experts rule the day.  The fault for this may lie in the voters themselves for not paying enough attention to who they are electing and for not speaking up with enough regularity so that rubber stamp behavior has been allowed to flourish.  So even though local school boards may have the right to stand up against Common Core standards, they do not truly possess the ability.  Decades of atrophy have set in so that school boards are now unlikely to stand up against district superintendents much less the state DPI superintendent.

This is why we need to legislature to take a stand.  They have funded DPI’s adoption of Common Core standards and the associated Smarter Balanced testing.  The legislature must defund Common Core and all associated testing.  They must demand adoption of standards that school districts actually can build upon.  It will take years to turn over individual school boards so they have people willing to actually be more than rubber stamps for district and state superintendents.  By then, Common Core will be firmly entrenched in our state and our state will already be producing standardized minds.

The legislature must take a stand to roll back Common Core. While it’s necessary that the legislature stand up for privacy on personally identifiable and biometric information for our students, it is far from sufficient.

Don’t be fooled by the legislature taking some action.  If the legislature does not repeal Common Core and pull out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium your children and our state are at risk. We will need to learn to be comfortable in our mediocrity.  We can lay the blame for that at the feet of an imperial DPI superintendent, a fence-sitting governor, and a cowardly legislature, and our own non-involvement over the years.

Wake up and take action today.  Encourage Senators Vukmir and Farrow to draft full repeal legislation.

  • Do not accept anything less than a full repeal.
  • Do not allow the legislature to compound past failures in oversight by continuing with standards that are not suitable for local control and in fact cede control to the federal government and corporations.
  • Do not be placated by token legislation.
  • Do not be fooled by legislation that pushes decisions about what your children will and will not learn years out into the future.

 

absolute-conformity

Tony Evers – I Am Above The Law

when-I-adopt-standards

When the legislature passed the 2013-2015 biennial budget, they included language that required Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction to hold three hearings on Common Core Standards by September 30, 2013 and required the Legislature to hold three hearings on Common Core Standards by November 30, 2013.

That did not sit well with Superintendent Tony Evers!  He sent off a letter to Governor Walker, asking that he line item veto this provision.  Evers states: “the budget bill language requires the State Superintendent to adopt new standards and mandates the process for doing so.  This is a challenge to the State Superintendent’s constitutional authority to adopt standards under the general power to supervise public instruction provided in Section 1, Article X, of the Wisconsin Constitution.”  To his credit, Governor Walker clearly preferred that the people’s voice be heard on this matter.  The requirement for hearings remained in Act 20, the 2013-2015 biennial budget that Governor Walker signed into law.

Unable to convince the Governor to stop the hearings, Tony Evers proceeded to simply ignore the directive from the Legislature and the Governor.  September 30th came and went without any mention of hearings by DPI.  With their head buried in the sand, DPI continued to plan for the implementation of Common Core in Wisconsin without hearing from or answering to the people of Wisconsin.

Rep. Robin Vos and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald took the initiative to form a Select Committee on Common Core Standards to fulfill the legislature’s requirement for hearings in Act 20.  Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt and Sen. Paul Farrow were named chairs of the committee and planned four hearings to be held throughout the state in Madison, Fond du Lac, Wausau, and Eau Claire.  They took special care to make sure that hearings ran from 1pm to 8pm in these cities so that working parents and teachers could attend to give testimony.  They gave plenty of notice as to where and when the hearings would be held and made every possible accommodation to hear from all interested parties.

During the first hearing, in Madison, Tony Evers reiterated that he alone had constitutional authority to adopt Common Core Standards for Wisconsin.  Both legislative counsel and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) have weighed in to clearly state that it is the legislature, rather than the Superintendent, that has sole power to set standards for our children.  WILL states in an October 16, 2013 press release: “his [Tony Evers'] claim is baseless and without legal merit.  The Superintendent is incorrect about his authority and incorrect about the power of the Wisconsin legislature.  In Wisconsin, it is the elected policymakers in the legislature that have the ability to determine what standards should be set for our children.”  Nonetheless, Superintendent Evers continued to make veiled threats to sue the legislature should they get in the way of Implementing Common Core.

During the course of four legislative hearings on Common Core, it is fair to say that all sides were allowed to present their case for or against Common Core.  A parade of district superintendents made their case that the standards were higher and deeper, much better than Wisconsin’s 1998 standards, and were helping teachers to be more effective.  National experts like Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. James Milgram, and Ze’ev Wurman talked about how Common Core standards were developmentally inappropriate in early grades and did not adequately prepare students for college and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers.  Dr. Gary Thompson pointed out that the Smarter Balanced Assessments, tied to Common Core, were actually a form of psychological abuse for our children.  The point is that all sides were heard.  Much of the hyperbole and rhetoric both for and against common core was tested and our representatives were able to get to the truth at the heart of Common Core.  What is more, the legislature did a fantastic job of ensuring that all sides were heard on the issue.

On December 12 the Assembly Committee on Common Core released its recommendations, and though not calling for a complete repeal of Common Core and associated testing, they clearly found that the people’s concern over this issue was well founded.  Shortly thereafter, stronger questions about Common Core started emerging from the state senate.  Senator Paul Farrow called for Smarter Balanced Assessments to be put on hold in Wisconsin for several years to evaluate their efficacy in other states.  Senator Vukmir called for an outright repeal of Common Core and the aligned Smarter Balanced Assessments.

Representative Knudson, the co-chair of the assembly committee, penned an article calling into serious question DPI’s assertion that it gave adequate opportunity for feedback prior to Tony Evers’ adoption of the standards on June 2, 2010.  By the way, Wisconsin was the very first state in the nation to adopt the standards, within hours of the standards being released.  This was done unilaterally by Tony Evers without any consultation with the legislature.

All of a sudden things weren’t going to well for Tony Evers and his plan to make Wisconsin Common Core compliant.  Though DPI clearly thinks they know better than you about what is good for your children and their future, they seem altogether unwilling to listen to you or your representatives about what you want for your children.  They feel that if we can just get contracts for Common Core supplies, textbooks, training materials, and technology signed then the legislature won’t be able to reverse course.  By the way, the cost of those supplies, textbooks, training materials, and technology is estimated to cost school districts in Wisconsin over $150 million That will show up in your property tax bill, as the state isn’t picking up the tab.  Many of those purchasing decisions need to be made by January 1, 2014.  If it wasn’t for that pesky requirement that DPI hold three hearings before the “pause” on Common Core implementation in Act 20 could be lifted, DPI and Evers would be home free in ramming Common Core through on its own inertia.

What’s an ambitious, imperial Superintendent of Public Instruction to do?  Hold some hearings, that’s what.  On the afternoon of Friday, December 13th, DPI announced that they would be holding three simultaneous hearings across Wisconsin.  Each would only run 3 hours, from 3pm-6pm and would be held on Thursday, December 19th.  Unlike the legislature, these hearings would be held DURING peak work hours, preventing working parents and teachers from attending and giving testimony.  Unlike the legislature, these hearings were given only six days advance notice and holding them simultaneously prevented any single person from attending all the hearings.  What is more, the hearings were scheduled only six days from the Christmas holiday and right smack dab in the middle of holiday shopping season.  It seems that Tony Evers scheduled his hearings perfectly to make sure that input from parents, teachers, and experts were kept to a minimum.  This is a vain attempt to comply with the letter of the law in Act 20 while completely disregarding the spirit of that law… that the people should be heard.

To anyone following Superintendent Evers closely, this should come as no surprise.  He clearly feels that he and his experts know better than you what is best for your children and their education.  He doesn’t want to listen to your complaints about Common Core or how your children are being tested too much.  He doesn’t want to hear how students passion for learning is being diminished as we emphasize subjects that can be assessed with standardized tests and de-emphasize subjects like art, music, shop, and creative writing.

I-dont-want-your-input

No, Tony Evers knows best.  He’s ticked off that he has to do these hearings at all.  He doesn’t think he needs to listen to the legislature, the governor, or you.  I suggest you let him know that he damn well better listen and that he is your servant and not your emperor.

Call Tony Evers at 608-266-1771 and tell him that it’s important to listen to Wisconsin on issues that affect our children.  Tell him parents and teachers should be allowed to weigh in on Common Core and that he should hold hearings on three separate days AFTER the Christmas and New Years holidays.  Tell him that those hearings should cover some after work hours so working parents can attend.

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: TWO STEPS CLOSER TO ELIMINATING SCHOOL CHOICE

Common Core Standards are a federal program in which the federal government will define the curricula and the academic standards for each subject taught in the every school setting. These Federal Standards will basically eliminate local control of schools and provide unfettered access to curricula by the Federal Government and eventually, by the United Nations. To date, 46 states have adopted Common Core Standards. The cost for implementing these standards may require a new method of taxation that is more accommodating for federal control of the educational system.

President Obama’s federal program Race to the Top provides bonus points to states that institute common learning goals. Common Core Standards represent about $16 billion in new unfunded mandates. It imposes mediocre standards upon the states which must be accepted or the states are threatened with loss of present funding. Federal mandating of these standards bypasses any congressional scrutiny and the state legislative process as well as violating the public trust by preventing any school board, parental, or teacher approval of these programs.

The federal government has been encouraged to implement these standards by educational policy experts because, as A New Civic Literacy: American Education and Global Interdependence provided by the Aspen Institute explains, “decentralization of education (local control) makes educational change difficult to introduce.” Therefore, policy experts recommend that the federal government be given the responsibility to assure the implementation of global interdependence. Advancing global interdependence has replaced the original educational goal and that is why our schools are failing academically, but schools are succeeding to advance our population’s acceptance of surrendering our boarder, our right to secure elections, and respect for our founding documents.

Common Core Standards have been written for math and English and are currently being written for social studies curricula. The standards for this subject are key to the successful advancement of the social and political policy of global interdependence which these standards are intended to help implement. According to A New Civic Literacy the “students in our public schools constitute the nation’s greatest and most attractive sucker list. Everybody with anything to sell—a global perspective—would naturally like to get at this market of future American adults, and get them as early in life as possible.”  The document identifies teachers of social studies and the publishers of text books as key points of leverage. Because of the importance of this access to the American public, these policy experts defined education as “the most important subject we as a people are engaged in.”

Teachers, parents, and some legislators have been discouraging the implementation of Common Core Standards because the standards are weak. They eliminate oversight by school boards, teachers, and parents and any control parents and educators would have over what happens in the classroom. The Wall Street Journal reported on May 8, 2012, in “School-Standards Pushback” that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is concerned that these standards will “relinquish control of education to the federal government” and that Emmett McGroarty, executive director of American Principles in Action, called the standards “mediocre and costly to implement.”

Many are concerned that the Common Core Standards, once successfully implemented, will provide unfettered access of our educational system by the United Nations. Textbooks and curricula for our public schools have already been written by UNESCO and the International Baccalaureate program that is currently in many school districts across the United States. Grabbing additional access is a natural next step. Once they write the curricula, they must have authority to develop all testing tools. They will decide who becomes a teacher and what preparation will be provided for that teacher. The International Baccalaureate curriculum upsets parents and teachers because the focus includes sustainable development, abortion rights, gay marriage, universal disarmament and social justice curricula.

The UN involvement in the American educational system has already been facilitated by treaties signed by American presidents from both parties. Those documents include but are not limited to: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Treaty on the Rights of the Child, Civic Education: Classroom Connections, and Agenda 21.

 EdWatch.org published “Marc Tucker’s New Education Initiative” written by Professor Allen Quist in 2007 in which the professor explains that experts representing the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) seem to believe that it will be easier for the public to accept a new method of funding education once schools are burdened under these unfunded mandates. According to professor Quist, the NCEE suggests that regional development authorities be created and given power to tax removing all remaining local control of schools. Once the federal government has total control of education, what will happen to school choice?

For effective educational reform, citizens must unite around a single mission: eliminate federal mandates and federal funding of education and reallocate those funds to the states.

By: Karen Schroeder, President of Advocates for Academic Freedom

This article is provided courtesy of Advocates for Academic Freedom blog.

“Hands Off My Kids”

Here is a recent quote in an MSNBC ad by Melissa Harris-Perry, “We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had sort of a private notion of children.”   and “I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them.”

 

Today Mellisa Harris-Perry was addressing her comments and she was confused on why her statements would cause such a controversy.     The reason is this:   It implies that the “community” or “collective” will raise and educate our American children better than individual parents.   That, Melissa Harris-Perry, is what makes parents upset.   Parents have seen “the village” and we don’t like what we see.

Parents also know  that, “the community”, “the collective”, “the village”, “the people” are words used in replace of the word – government.   Society is on a fast track to give up rights and freedoms to our government.    Why do people believe that our government will know what is best for our children and their future?

The following are some random quotes made by American People following Melissa Harris-Perry’s statement.    “I thank God for Melissa Harris Perry she has deep understanding of the conditions our children face when they go out to be educated.”       “It takes a village….”     “Children will not be yours forever….”    and lastly,    “People need to get rid of their backwards way of thinking and get clear on how the world is.  Educate yourself.”

Those statements are examples of people ready to give up their individual thoughts, rights, and freedoms to people in our government or ”the enlightened, educated society” (said with much sarcasm).

How are we losing our rights in education?   The Common Core Standards take power away from parents, grandparents, and local schools.    All the power is in a small group of people.   They are selling our schools an educational reform and that has the potential to influence millions of children.     FERPA laws have been amended to by-pass parental consent on data sharing.    Millions of children will have their personal information shared, discussed, and sold among government agencies and private companies.    I do not believe that “this collective” has my best interest at heart.   I think the Common Core is just another method to have more money, more power, and more influence.   These people are opening their greedy arms to an entirely new market – Our American Children.

Hands Off My Kids!

Dear Homeschooler,

I am writing to you because I am very concerned about the national reform called the Common Core Standards.   I am a homeschool mom and this reform scares me.  Common Core has the potential to make huge changes and consequences to our homeschool families.   Let’s take a look at five ways this can affect us.

Currently, there are 45 states that have accepted the Race to the Top Grants to implement the Common Core Standards.   Wisconsin is one of those states and has accepted 22.7 million dollars. The HSLDA has taken a strong side against the Common Core Standards.  They believe that this is a push towards nationalized education and a national test.   Considering that 87% of our students are under the mandates of Common Core, homeschoolers and private schools will be the only groups standing against the movement of a national curriculum and test.   There will be continuous pressure for homeschool families to participate in these tests.

The loss of power at the local level is also a concern.   The state of Wisconsin is now participating as a large consortia of 45 states.   Each state is giving up their local power to work in this network.    It is only a matter of time before Wisconsin will rewrite the state’s homeschooling law to agree with the collective.     Chances are the national law will have more requirements for homeschoolers rather than less.

The Obama administration has shown little willingness to help the freedoms of homeschoolers.   Recently, Eric Holder has been quoted, “There is no fundamental liberty to homeschool.”  The German Romeike family has come to America to seek the right to freely teach their children as they see fit.   They came to America looking for asylum and the Obama administration is showing signs that they will deport this family.   Will Eric Holder use those same words towards American homeschoolers?   Those words are a slippery slope and homeschools are sliding in the wrong direction.

Another concern is purchasing curriculum.  I notice all the advertisements on the materials meet the new Common Core Standards.   This movement is so strong that it has even embedded itself into homeschool teaching materials.   We are unaware of the consequences that an unproven, untested set of standards will have our our children’s education.   Yet, a homeschooler can not pick up and educational magazine, shop at a school store, or order materials from a reputable company without the words Common Core plastered all over it.   One homeschool mother has dedicated an entire website to educating parents on what materials use Common Core Standards.   Each day I read blog posts about homeschool families that are concerned about Common Core.   I am not surprised by this.   We are ususally the first defense to protect children’s rights and their educations.   This is a war on the American family and the freedom to choose what is in the best interest of our own children.

Lastly, the SAT tests are a concern.  The tests are being rewritten to meet the Common Core Standards.  The College Board, which oversees SAT, helped develop the concepts behind the Common Core Standards.   The College Board was one of the orginal five think tanks that gave America this reform from the top-down.    Any homeschool student that wants to do well on his/her SAT will be forced to use curriculum that supports the Common Core Standards.

Fundamentally, the Common Core Standards go against every thing that I believe is good about American:  freedom, liberty, and individualism.   This is not the American way and it is not the homeschool way.